Weekend Links

» This week’s big news. Open thread in the comments.

Follow my Twitter account (@ttpolitic) to get news in real time.

On The Transport Politic:

New Directions for the Old South series on Next American City:


  • Setting a different tone, Ohio Senator George Voinovich (R) calls for an expansion of the federal gas tax for transportation, describes Robert Cruickshank on California High-Speed Rail Blog. Of course, virtually no one else in power agrees with the plan and Voinovich will retire early next year.
  • Transportation can play an important role in electoral politics. Joe Sestak (D), running for one of Pennsylvania’s Senate seats, promotes high-speed rail as a campaign initiative. Governor Martin O’Malley (D), running for re-election in Maryland, argues that two transit lines set him apart from his competitor.
  • Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, who has promised his constituents a vote on the expansion of light rail service to West Seattle, will likely not be able to stage a referendum next year. Opposition from City Council is causing problems.

Big Things

  • Chinese authorities announce that all of their high-speed rail lines will eventually be operationally profitable. The first corridor, from Beijing to Tianjin, will set the precedent later this year.
  • Stuttgart’s €4 billion project to reshape the way intercity trains move through the city gets underway. The program has met lots of opposition because it requires the demolition of part of the existing terminal for the construction of a huge underground concourse.
  • Dallas provides a beautiful visualization of its airport light rail connection, now finally funded according to news this week. On a far smaller scale, the expansion south to downtown Bayonne of the Hudson-Bergen light rail line in Northern New Jersey is planned to be completed by this fall.

Image above: Nashville’s Music City Circuit stopped at waterfront rail station, by Yonah Freemark

9 replies on “Weekend Links”

There’s a very good explanation of train acceleration here. Using this explanation, basic train performance stats, and the only speed-acceleration curve for a high-speed train that I’ve seen (that of the Velaro), I’ve constructed a putative slow zone table for the N700-I, JR Central’s export model. So far you can only set deceleration rates and speeds; if there’s interest I could make the train’s acceleration profile more customizable, so that you can compare other HSR trains, but the computation is difficult and it was easier to hardcode Shinkansen stats.

The upshot of this exercise is that yes, it is in fact possible to do Boston-Washington in 3 hours with moderate levels of infrastructure investment. It’s a couple of billions, but there’s no need for undersea tunnels.

In several of my books on the Pennsyvinia Railroad Old Rivits the GG1 was able to at least get Washingtion DC to New York’s Penn Station in three hours when the NEC tracks where in their prime in the 1930’s. If we could remove the bottle necks in some of the over loaded sections it would be very possible. But stopping at all the major train stations are going eat up lots of time.

NY-DC is already being done in 2:52, and if the trains were not low-powered hunks of crash barriers, it could probably be done in 2:15. The aforementioned slow zone table says that even on clear track, a station stop from 135 mph slows the train down by 74 seconds plus the dwell time. And when the track isn’t clear, due to slow zones, the stop time is less because the train has to slow down anyway.

Ok. That’s startling. I’m not sure I understand the claim. Is it that a single 360 km/h capable trainset, with the acceleration profile of an N700-I, can run from Boston to Washington (with any intermediate stops?) in three hours; its speed being regulated solely by the characteristics of the track (not by MN fiat!); assuming it doesn’t have to slow because some other train is in the way; and assuming some minimal speed-enhancing infrastructure upgrades: constant tension catenary, some few curve straightenings? What are the Boston-NY, NY-Washington splits?

Clearing a path for such a run requires capacity upgrades as well, particularly in Maryland. If we want such trains running in both directions with some frequency, then we need to maintain two clear paths. So it’s not just a question of a couple of billions.

But this is a very useful result.

Yes, this is the claim. The speed upgrades are a little less minimal – they include some major bypasses, especially in Connecticut – but they’re not a huge deal, not when compared to an undersea tunnel.

The split is 1:30 on both segments. The intermediate stations are Providence, New Haven, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and Baltimore; New York it’s pointless to skip, and all the other stations on the list are located near very bad curves. Squeezing Wilmington as an additional station makes the timetable borderline. There would be some extra local stations, with local trains doing each run in about 2:00 per segment.

Clearing a path requires some capacity upgrades, yes, but not everywhere. In Maryland they may actually be unavoidable. But in Connecticut there need to be so many HSR-only curve bypasses that it shouldn’t be a problem, and in Massachusetts there would be fewer intercity trains so it would suffice to add passing sidings at the stations.

Re: Stuttgart
This comment says it all:

What’s really galling about Stuttgart 21 are the consequences for federal rail investments. Important projects that could drive growth (e.g. the connection to the new Gotthard tunnel) will be crowded out and delayed to 2030-40 because of extremely expensive inefficient projects taking a huge chunk of a very modest budget (1 billion euros a year). The German rail investment program will be on life support for the next 10-15 years.

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